The menu at Subway has historically been designed to serve two groups of people: those who believe that good sandwiches are defined not by flavor, but by “customized” arrangements of flavorless meat and cheese, differentiated only by texture and temperature, and those who further believe that physical fitness can be achieved through their consumption.
For the first time since the chain was founded in 1965, however, Subway is willfully turning its back on the “healthy” image it has so carefully cultivated, and is promoting a sandwich covered in melted cheese, enchilada sauce-soaked shredded chicken, and topped with a layer of Fritos brand corn chips.
Why the sudden about-face? It's a move most likely inspired by the goings-on over at Taco Bell, where strategic brand partnerships with other junk food companies have yielded staggeringly successful results (most notably in the form of the profoundly addictive “Doritos Locos” line of tacos). It's as though, with slumped shoulders, Subway has finally had to acknowledge that all anyone really wants to eat anymore is vaguely spicy hot goop with corn chips crammed in the middle.
Name: Fritos® Chicken Enchilada Melt
They say: “There's never been another sub like it! Crunch into a pile of Fritos placed right on top of tender pulled chicken and authentic enchilada sauce for a new satisfyingly delicious bite of flavor you can't find anywhere else!”
It's tough to find a real methodology for evaluating new Subway items, which is why we've settled on asking for tasting orders to be prepared “like the picture.” The trouble is that Subway's “sandwich Artists” rarely seem prepared for this kind of request, which leads to everyone in the restaurant craning their necks to see the poster on the wall for guidance, little consistency across orders, and tons of ill will on the part of everyone involved.
After some discussion, we settled on tomato, lettuce, onion and pepper jack cheese, served untoasted. The only change we made was in the flatbread clearly featured in the promo photos, since eating flatbread at a Subway is about as enjoyable an experience as, say, eating flatbread at a Subway.* Instead, we thought the newly-launched “Jalapeño Cheddar” bread seemed like a more complimentary thematic choice, and since every ingredient at Subway tastes identical to every other, didn't worry too much about the substitution.
*There's not really any more apt or depressing a metaphor. It's already all right there in front of you.
There were no real surprises. The shredded chicken was gummy, drenched in an enchilada sauce whose major contribution to the sandwich seemed to be strictly “color.” There was no way to know if cheese was there or not, so inconsequential was it to the flavor of the whole, and the Fritos somehow managed to completely disintegrate into mush between the counter and the car. The signature crunch of watery white Subway vegetables was there, but otherwise, the sandwich didn't manage to leave any impression at all.
In fact, its total lack of remarkability was maybe its most impressive attribute. Though it was somewhat clear that a meal had happened, since there were suddenly crumbs around and a crinkled receipt nearby, there was absolutely nothing else to differentiate “eating lunch” from “not eating lunch.”
In its attempt to be radical, to turn away from Jared's fat-pants “footlong sandwiches are diet food” roots to embrace something new, Subway has produced another thoroughly forgettable sandwich, whose most redeeming quality is that it tastes “kinda like Taco Bell.” Only without the subtle flavors. Or the sophisticated atmosphere. Or the really interesting people. Skip this one, for now.
Malcolm Bedell blogs about cooking and food weirdness at From Away and Spork & Barrel. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.